Slidell workshop set at Cross Gates
By KEVIN CHIRI
Slidell news bureau
SLIDELL — Anyone who is worried about the future of Slidell’s children, wondering if they are spending their lives on the computer, needs to talk to Mary-Brent and Beverly Brown.
The two girls are a far cry from the picture much of America has of today’s young people using every waking moment playing video games or texting on their cell phone.
The two sisters from Covington are now reaching out to Slidell with their organization, “Kids Wanna Help,” which was formed in 2007 as a way for young people to get the skills to start a business, and help charitable groups in need.
“We were really tired of being involved in groups where the adults made all the decisions,” Mary-Brent said. “We had just been involved in a party at school, but the adults made all the decisions, and we wanted to show adults that kids could make decisions and do some good things.”
Mary-Brent, now age 14 and going into the tenth grade, is a big reader and had recently read a story about a young girl who put on a fashion show.
“I thought that we could do that, and have all the money go to a charity,” she said. “So Beverly and I started planning it.”
They found an excellent charity called the J.L. Foundation, which helps families whose children have pediatric leukemia. Mary-Brent wants to be a pediatric oncologist when she finishes school, so the charity was perfect.
“We liked their charity since 100 percent of the money goes to families with problems paying bills, or the expenses associated with the illness of the kids,” she said. “And that’s what we wanted to do.”
The girls named the group “Kids Wanna Help,” and began organizaing a fashion show that was held at Tchefuncta Country Club.
“Our theme was ‘To be Beautiful, You Have to be Yourself,’ and we ended up raising $11,000 by selling tickets, and from a silent auction,” Beverly said. “It was awesome to be able to do that.”
The young girls, with Beverly only 9 and Mary-Brent 11 at the time, called and visited businesses and asked for donations for the silent auction, while recruiting young kids to help with the fashion show.
One of the children who came to the fashion show was a 6-year-old with cancer. She needed a wig since she was about to start treatment that would make her lose her hair, so Beverly and Mary-Brent came up with another idea.
“We decided to have a lemonade stand to raise money to buy her a wig,” Mary-Brent explained. “We had it at my grandparents house in Slidell (Ed and Karen Smith), and got other kids to help. We walked the neighborhood and asked for donations, besides selling lemonade, and raised $300. We made so much that we were able to buy her two wigs.”
That led to the next big idea by the girls, which was to begin the Kids Wanna Help Lemonade Brigade, that would teach other children how to properly operate a lemonade stand so they could make money—all with the goal of helping charity groups.
“We knew that if we could raise this money through a lemonade stand, then other kids could do it, if we taught them the right way to go about it,” Mary-Brent said.
They began putting the word out that they would have a workshop to teach kids about how to operate a stand in a professional manner. The workshop cost $85 to attend, but kids were given their outfits for the stand, supplies to get started, a handbook with everything about starting a business, and even heard from successful business people, teaching them about business principles.
The first workshop brought 30 children, who took the idea out into their own “Kids Wanna Help Lemonade Brigade” teams, one of which raised $1,500 with her stand.
Since the early start, the girls have had two more fashion shows, raising a total of $25,000 more for the J.L. Foundation, while hosting a workshop once a year for the Lemonade Brigade. With all their success, they decided it was time to branch out to Slidell, so more children could find the same success.
They will be hosting a Slidell workshop on Monday, June 28 at Cross Gates Family Fitness, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“We want to give other kids the skills to run any business they want,” Mary-Brent said. “As they learn, we hope they will pass the knowledge along to others. This is all about helping people.”
Mary-Brent and Beverly said they are not overly religious people, nor are they so unusual. They just love the idea of making decisions on things they want to do, and helping others.
“I just like to help people,” Mary-Brent said. “I can’t say exactly why, but I just like doing it. This new group we have formed is giving adults a new perspecive on kids and I like that.”
The last two workshops held in Covington have drawn 45, and most recently 55 kids. The guest speakers throughout the day teach kids every aspect of business, from accounting and finances, to “the customer is always right” attitude.
“This is not for every kid,” Mary-Brent added. “But the kids who have come to this want to be there, and have been really excited at what they have learned.”
As added incentive, there will be an end of the summer pool party, with awards given.
Kids Wanna Help is for children from the third through the seventh grade. Anyone who wants to sign up for the Slidell workshop, or wants more information, can go online to kidswannahelp.com, or call the Lemonade Brigade Hotline at 985-875-0407.